YouTube 'global' film contest bans Burmese

A YouTube contest aimed at collating footage from global citizens into a ‘Life in a Day’ film will not include entries from residents of Burma due to US sanctions on the country.

The final product of the contest will be directed by Kevin Macdonald and produced by Ridley Scott, and aired at the Sundance Film Festival next year. ‘Life in a Day’ is billed by Google, who bought YouTube in 2006, as an “historic cinematic experiment”. The competition was launched on 24 July, and gave people “24 hours to capture a snapshot of your life on camera.”

“Every day, 6.7 billion people view the world through their own unique lens. Imagine if there was a way to collect all of these perspectives, to aggregate and mold them into the cohesive story of a single day on earth,” it continued.

But deep within the contest’s Terms and Conditions is a clause that says “You will not be eligible to submit Videos to be considered for inclusion in the Film if you are: a resident of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Myanmar/Burma, Syria, or any other U.S. sanctioned country”.

Washington holds sanctions on some 14 countries with a combined population of more than 280 million. The majority of the listed countries also have their own highly repressive media environments: Cuba, Burma, Iran and North Korea ranked in the bottom six of last year’s Reporters Sans Frontieres’ (RSF) Press Freedom Index and are among the world’s few media ‘blackspots’, where state-control of newspapers and television is near total.

The US nevertheless funds a number of exiled Burmese media outlets, including DVB, as part of a so-called ‘open society’ initiative aimed at providing residents of Burma with a non-state news source, and as a means for Burmese to broadcast conditions inside the country to the outside world.

The contest therefore appears not to have reconciled the effect of US sanctions with their stated intentions; indeed the rules seem to override the contest’s own aim of “[documenting] one day, as seen through the eyes of people around the world”.

The bloody crackdown by troops on the September 2007 uprising in Burma was one of the few incidents in the past decade that garnered global attention on the country, but such footage may not marry with the ‘Life’s Good’ campaign by LG Electronics, who is supporting the ‘Life in a Day’ contest.

With the uprising, however, Burma became one of the success stories in the rise of ‘citizen journalism’ – a phenomenon tapped into by the YouTube competition – where the boundaries between reporter, activist and layman are blurred.

While the majority of the world’s news outlets in the past few decades have reduced staff numbers whilst upping content, the disparity has been somewhat compensated for by a wider pool of unofficial contributors utilising the power of internet and camera phones. Ironically, footage of the September 2007 uprising is readily available on YouTube, while the range of US news programmes sporadically broadcast footage from inside Burma.

YouTube was unavailable for comment.

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